10 murder ballads with a gothic twist

About the list: Murder ballads are one of my guilty pleasures. The more gruesome the better. However, the murders are a secondary matter. It's the deception, despair, remorse and the divine justice that's interesting in this context. Read more here (opens in a new window). The list contains both traditional and newly written murder ballads.



 Cover Song/Album Artist





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Country Death Song / Hallowed Ground




Violent Femmes

This ballad stand the test of time, despite the fact that it was recorded over 30 years ago. The song is based on a true story from an 1862 news article about a man who intentionally threw his daughter into a well and then hanged himself in his barn. 





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Goose Walking Over My Grave / Munly & the Lee Lewis Harlots




Munly & the Lee Lewis Harlots

Not for the faint-hearted or pregnant. ”She said ‘punch me in the stomach’ I said girl I do not know / if I punch you in the stomach that our child inside will not grow / She said ‘if you truly love me you’ll do this thing for me”. It gets worse. Much worse.





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The Sad Song of Seguin Island / Defiant  




Christian Williams

A story of a lighthouse keeper who ordered a piano for his bored young wife. However, it came with one song on sheet music, which she played over and over until the keeper, driven insane by the repetition, chopped the piano to bits with an ax and then killed his wife and himself.








 Kill A Spider (Frankie Silver) / Kill A Spider




 The Victor Mourning

Inspired by the story of Frankie Silver, who was only 18 when her husband, Charles, was hacked to death with an axe in their Burke County, North Carolina, cabin just before Christmas in 1831. Frankie was charged with the crime, tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. Digital only.





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My Beautiful Bride / In The Air




The Handsome Family

This band have a couple of gruesome songs in their repertoire. ”She swore she'd love me the rest of her life / But my hands, they shook as the noon bells chimed / So at the last bell, I showed her my knife / And I laid to rest my beautiful bride out in the heather where the sun burns bright”.





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Knoxville Girl / Hope





This murder ballad is derived from the 19th-century Irish ballad "The Wexford Girl", itself derived from the earlier English ballad "The Oxford Girl". The ballad has been interpreted by many artists and bands and is associated with considerable vertical drop. Blackgrass dares and wins.




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 Pretty Polly / Ballads And Mental Breakdowns 





Uncle Sinner

The story of a young woman lured into the forest where she is killed and buried in a shallow grave. Many variants include a ship's carpenter who promises marriage, but murders her when she becomes pregnant. Haunted by her ghost he confesses to the murder, goes mad and dies.





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Henry Lee / Jose Acadio Is Dead




American Sinner

A story about the fury of a scorned woman. A man tells a woman that he is in love with another more beautiful woman. The woman stabs him to death and throws his body in the river. His remains are eventually found and she confesses to the crime. Later she is burned at the stake.







The Cruel Mother / No Earthly Man




Alasdair Roberts

A woman gives birth to an illegitimate child in the woods, kill and bury. On her way home, she meets a boy child, playing, and says that if he were hers, she would dress him in silk. The child tell her that when he was thine, he didn’t see any of her silk so fine. She will be damned for the killing.







In The Pines / Dark Rollin' Skies 




 Rob Coffinshaker

“True love, true love, dont lie to me / Tell me where did you sleep last night? / I slept, in the pines, where the sun never shines”. This ballad dates back to at least the 1870s and is believed to be Appalachian in origin. Also known as "Where Did You Sleep Last Night" and "Black Girl".



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